The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book is a revision of The Old Waldorf Astoria Bar Book, first printed in 1934 and written by Albert Stevens Crockett. The author of the new, revised version of the book, Frank Caiafa took the position as bar manager of the newly renovated Peacock Alley Bar at New York City’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel in 2005. He was charged with reimagining the bar menu to fit in with the food served at the restaurant. In 2005, the cocktail culture was beginning to be revived in America and I think it is fair to say that New York City was leading that revival. Caiafa found the older version of the bar book and started to work. He did extensive research on classic cocktails and after a decade of research, he published this book.

The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book. Frank Caiafa, New York, New York, Penguin Random House LLC, 2016. Contents, Introduction, Index, Illustrations, 406 pp.

The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book looks like a classic cocktail book from the 1930s. It has lots of recipes and is illustrated with many drawings of people enjoying drinks and humorous illustrations of cocktails being made and enjoyed by people. The book is true to the original book in that manner. However, the book has many new recipes that the original book did not have. 

The book is well organized with chapters titled “The Home Bar”, “House-made Recipes”, “Recipes A to Z”, “Large Cups and Punches”, “Hot Drinks”, and “Historical Concoctions”.  The recipes are clearly written and easy to follow. Each recipe has a paragraph or more about the history of the cocktail. For example here is the recipe titled:

1860 Manhattan – Peacock Alley Variation

2 oz Elijah Craig 12 Year Old Single Barrel Bourbon

2 oz Noilly Prat Sweet Vermouth

¼ oz Pierre Ferrand dry Curacao (or Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur)

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass. Add ice and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a brandied cherry.

There is a paragraph of history of this cocktail. The cocktail was on the menu at the Peacock Alley since Caiafa started there in 2005. (After the Waldorf Astoria was purchased in 2016, it has been closed for renovation and it is unclear if the Peacock Ally Bar will survive the redevelopment. The hotel is expected to reopen in 2023.)

The book is also illustrated with many drawings of people enjoying cocktails, but it is not illustration heavy. The focus is on the recipes themselves and the history of the recipe. The cocktails are easy to find. The recipes are in alphabetical order and there is an index listing the recipes.

The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book is a welcome addition to my library. I believe that it will be a classic cocktail book that I will refer to often.

Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller